Network Rail selects Altran to take part in COMPASS

04 April 2016

The UK is centralising its signalling system through the development of Railway Operating Centres (ROCs), which, while increasing reliability, are likely to increase the impact of waiting times following signalling failures. In a bid to create a redundant signalling system the COMPASS initiative was formed by Network Rail. It was recently announced that Altran has been selected to take part in the development of the COMPASS system.

Signalling across the UK railway system is becoming more reliable as new technologies are rolled out and investment sees network control gradually transferred to the new Railway Operating Centres (ROCs) springing up around the UK. The centralisation of signalling, however, while improving reliability in terms of volume, has the potential to created increased impact when a failure does occur – the larger areas that ROCs control means that reaching and resolving signalling issues can take longer.

The risks associated with trains being stuck for long periods, of more than two hours, coupled with the high volume of uptake, means that a solution to the current signalling problems has become a priority for two of the major railway stakeholders in the UK, Network Rail and train operating companies.

One of the proposed solutions is that Combined Positioning Alternative Signalling System (COMPASS). The system leverages a wide array of data sources to determine train position, direction and speed in real time for safety critical commands and information update requirements. The data is combined to provide signallers with track independent information about the train’s location to allow signalling decisions to be made following a signal failure. The system as a whole has the potential to significantly reduce waiting times as trains are able to, abate slowly, more through the affected area.

Network Rail selects Altran to take part in COMPASS

Network Rail recently announced that Altran has been selected to take part in the development of a positioning solution COMPASS. The firm, following the completion of the feasibility phase of the project, is moving onto the next phase, which is to develop a demonstration of the solution by the end of 2016. The solution leverages the firm’s VueForge platform, which combines satellite positioning and wireless communications to ensure resilience and operational flexibility following a signalling failure. The system uses signaller’s unit, which will be installed alongside the normal work station screen, and a train borne unit to be installed in the driver’s cab. Following a signal failure the system is activated, with the position data of a range of trains fed into an innovative data analytics programme to allow safe and efficient passage of multiple vehicles through a blockage.

Mike Simms, Chief Executive Officer of Altran UK, said: “Altran has long been recognised for the development of high -integrity software and systems – it is great to see this being applied to such an important rail project. The Altran UK team is delighted to have been selected for this exciting development.” John Collins, Programme Manager, Network Rail says: “Both Network Rail and RSSB are looking forward to working with Altran to progress the COMPASS project throughout the remainder of 2016.”

According to a study by BCG, the UK has the 8th best performing rail system across Europe.